Every other July is a melancholy time for me. I get homesick. I miss my former life, the life that became my calling and my community. While I love my present life with Steve, I get homesick for Cru (Campus Crusade) whenever the 5,000 U.S. staff gather together at Colorado State and I’m no longer part of them.
Last week, we watched online as keynote speaker Alistair Begg recounted his indebtedness to Cru starting with Explo ’72 in Dallas. My memories transported me back to the excitement that could hardly contain me as a 15-year-old participant in the crowd of 80,000 praising God as one in the Cotton Bowl.
Probably the July I missed Cru the most was when Bill Bright died. My brother called me on a Sunday morning to tell me the news. I cried so much I couldn’t make it to church. Later, Steve and I watched online as the staff, already together in Colorado, remembered our humble, godly leader. I felt part of them in spirit but wished I could be present physically to grieve with them. Vonette and many other staff shared that evening. But the one that affected me the most was Ney Bailey.
So many blessings came into my life through Cru. One of the foremost was being mentored by Ney, soaking in her pearls of wisdom as we rode trains together into Serbia during the Bosnian War. Every year, she stayed with me in Budapest for a few weeks and I knew I was the most fortunate of all the staff women in the world to have that time with her. Once she came during my birthday week. We’d prayed the year before for God to provide a piano, and she was there when a baby grand was supernaturally delivered on my exact birthday.
I have received blessing upon blessing. I’ve been part of something so significant and immense, that it could never have happened apart from the power and faithfulness of God. Through Cru, I have friends all over the world – friends closer than family, former teammates who know the very worst about me and still love me, and (amazingly) most of them even like me. Together, we took giant strides of faith, causing my faith muscle to grow so I can trust Him more. I’ve seen changes in students’ lives, changes which, with the hindsight 33 years affords, have often continued and grown and deepened, spilling over to influence countless more lives for Christ. I’ve witnessed countries change, and in the process, I’ve tasted the wonder of one day worshiping the Lamb on His Throne with people from every tongues and tribe and nation, forever.
It’s hard to explain to Steve, never part of Cru, what my former life was like. The closest we’ve come was when he watched me greet the team of 100 Romanian national staff assembled in Bucharest and listened to them sing praises to God in Romanian. Later, we gathered with an international group of staff friends in Budapest for a social night. Other than that, we’ve visited several Cru friends in their homes or cafes when we’ve traveled. And only a handful have been able to come out of their way to visit us, and that sure makes me love that handful (Gordana, Sharon, Kasia, Gwen) all the more. Nothing Steve has seen compares to the 5,000 at CSU.
Whether I’m on staff or not, the person I’ve become has been shaped by my involvement with Cru. My priorities and life mission center around Jesus Christ and the Great Commission. I couldn’t be more grateful. Or less homesick.